As I walking home from the grocery store, I snapped this picture of my favorite tree in Lexington. Yes, I know it is probably weird to have a favorite tree, but there's something about this one that I love. Especially this time of year, when it's turned completely red and just before all the leaves fall off and cover the ground, like so many belly-up spiders. I tend to take quite a few pictures of it throughout the year, and have even tried to make a short video of its leaves moving in the breeze.
Then, when I got home, I read the following passage, and though it talks of the desert, my solitary tree and the ability to come out of silence, to be able to speak, seemed to connect. At least to me.
At night I spoke. Haltingly at first, then in quick rushes, and then fell silent again. My friend and I sat at the table in the cool stone kitchen with a small light between us. He told me stories. He was an old man, full of quiet laughter, and had lived alone a long time. But his solitude had not been lonely, or silent, had not been words and secrets swallowed. His had been the rushing, clicking, hissing story of the desert moving through its seasons as he moved through the seasons of a joyful life.
By speaking, he taught me to speak. By telling the truth, he taught me that I could tell the truth as well. By listening, he bore witness to my life in a way I had never borne witness to anyone else's or my own. In that, he taught me to listen and taught me the value of bearing witness to the emergence of another person into themselves and into the world.
We sat at the table. Through the windows, the desert ocean whispered under the louder sound of cicadas and rustling long-nosed nectar-feeding bats and singing red-spotted toads. Night bled into day bled into night as secrets came out into the little light, lost their poison, became simply the facts of a life. Choking regrets became griefs that could heal. Corrosive shame, when set on the table between us, lost its power and was let go.
We said goodnight, went to our cool stone rooms, his with his easel, mine with a table and chair. I fell asleep looking at the cactus that grew just outside my window, watching the night cereus bloom.
~Waiting: a nonbeliever's higher power by Marya Hornbacher